Monday, December 21, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Conversation between Mintern and myself today:

Mintern *re-classifying books*: "OMG, HOW do I get the spine labels to print??"
Me: "You have to use the spine label template I emailed you a while back. The file has that exact name."
Mintern: "I have that, but how do you get them to go into the template?"
Me: "You copy and paste them!"
Mintern: "I did that and it puts them all on one!"
Me: "You have to do it one at a time."
Mintern: *facepalm* "I quit!"

Hahaha. That's prison for ya!

Until next time!

Friday, December 18, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like CHRISTMAS!

Hello readers, and Happy Holidays!  I was sitting in my kitchen tonight, making some holiday cookies for our work potluck ("Please do not eat raw cookie dough" the package said...Ha! Not only did I eat the raw cookie dough, I COVERED IT IN SPRINKLES.  #WinningAtChristmas) and I realized I have never written a Christmas blog, which is something that is long overdue because the holidays are a time in prison where the creativity really comes out.

During December, most people are busy decorating their homes with lights, hanging stockings, and buying presents.  In prison, there are still Christmas trees, although they are made with toilet paper cores and typically don't last much longer than the next count time because holiday decorations are contraband.  One of my clerks was complaining that she had THREE of her Special Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Trees taken in shakedowns (by The Grinch, to hear her tell it haha) and all I could think was "HOW DID YOU GET THAT MUCH TOILET PAPER???"   She also claimed that the staff were taking them to decorate their own homes because they were so awesome.  In addition to that being against the rules, how cool could they really be?  Although you do never know.  I have seen some pretty amazing creations in prison, and not just the paper mache di--....Um...this is a Christmas blog so I am not going to go there right now lol.

Another really awesome thing we do in prison is decorate the library.  One year during the Winter Reading Program the clerks made some intricate snowflakes using the patterns in this book and I loved them so much, I laminated all of them so we could hang them from the ceiling tiles year after year.  (A few years after I started doing that, I read in the rules that absolutely nothing was supposed to be hung from the ceiling....oops...)  We also put red paper Santa hats on EVERYTHING, and we put a really big one on the giant alien picture that one of our clerks drew that was supposed to hang on the wall during Supernatural Month but ended up being a year-round decoration.  (It also has a shamrock hat for St. Patrick's Day, a heart hat for Valentine's Day, a pirate hat for Talk Like a Pirate Day...ok I made that last one up but you can bet it will have one in September if that clerk still works there then.)

Because so many of my patrons have kids at home, our reading program is REALLY popular at Christmas.  It's good though, because the moms get to send their kids a present with their voice or face, and the kids get early childhood literacy, so it's a win-win!  Another way parents in prison can get their kids presents is through the Angel Tree program.  When I was little and used to go to church, my mom, sister and I would pick a child's name off the Angel Tree and buy them some presents and some warm clothes.  It was a great way for my mom to instill the value of giving and not just receiving during the holidays, although maybe she did it too well because now I get so excited to give people presents I want them to open them NOW. ;-)  I never realized until I started working in prison that those gifts were for children of incarcerated parents.  It's a great program for the kids, but seeing it from the other side and the sense of entitlement that the women had when they were talking about signing all their kids up for Angel just made me wish they were a little more humble about it and thankful that people would go out of their way to help their children have a good Christmas.  Instead, it was more like they were owed this opportunity and people would FLIP OUT about how unfair it was if they missed the deadline to submit the info to the Case Managers.  But, the kids can't help how the parents are, and they shouldn't suffer because of their parent's poor life choices, so, dear readers, if you see an Angel Tree anywhere and you can spare some extra money, please consider helping out.

And no matter what holiday you are celebrating (or not celebrating) this time of year, may you have many blessings and may this upcoming new year be your best one yet.

Until next time!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Censorship update

Greetings, fearless readers!  I wanted to give you an update to a blog post that I wrote in 2013 about censorship ridiculousness.  Please note, it is almost 2016.  Do you remember the good ol' C Encyclopedia?   The one we had to pull because it had stuff about codes that people might use to make even more sophisticated codes, because the higher-ups haven't gotten the memo that we don't censor something based on what someone *might* do with it?  Yeah, that encyclopedia is STILL on the review shelf in the office.  Honestly, it is probably out of date by now and should be weeded.  *SIGH*  Do you see what I mean about things not happening quickly in prison?  I kind of feel like we should start taking bets on how long it will take to make a decision on if we can just take that article out and put the rest of the C information back out for people.  I am going to put my money on FOREVER.  Any takers?  Haha.

Until next time! 

Friday, December 11, 2015 did you end up in prison?

Hello everyone!  Tonight's topic is one that always makes me laugh and that is answering the follow-up questions you get when you tell people you are a prison librarian.  I have covered this topic before in the post about fun with telling people you want to prison, and also how to make polite conversation about prison, but people seldom read blogs word for word, or if they do they might forget, so here it is again. :-)

Probably the most common question I get is: " did you end up in prison?"  The truth is, I ended up in prison completely by accident and it was all my best librarian friend's fault because she sent me the job link and said, "I think you should apply!  I see this job open all the time!"  Ha, that should have been our first sign!  Anyway... I am glad I did end up there though because everything happens for a reason, and if I didn't go to prison I probably would have just kept bartending and wishing I had a job in my field, and I wouldn't have gotten this amazing life-changing experience and I would not have had enough character because when I was little and I didn't want to do something my mom would tell me I should do it anyway because "It builds character."  When I got older I told her I had enough character, thankyouverymuch, but now that I am even older, I am finally at the age where I realize that my mom was right. :-)

The second most common question I get is, "Are you scared?" followed closely by, "Do you have a gun?"  The answer to both is no.  No, I am not scared because I have built a good rapport with staff and patrons and I have laid down the law enough times that people know I am not one of those staff that can be manipulated.  And no, I don't have a gun because they are not allowed, and that would be so terrible if an inmate was able to take my gun away and shoot me with it.  After switching to professional dress, I don't even carry a radio or OC anymore, and I am ok with that.

The next most popular question is, "Do you watch Orange is the New Black?"  Also, no.  I read the book and thought it was interesting, and I chose to ignore the part where Piper gives detailed instructions about how to steal chicken from the chow hall because I believe in intellectual freedom a little bit more than the restrictive censorship rules, but I watched one and a half episodes on Netflix and decided to stop because I didn't like the way staff was portrayed in the series.  To be fair, one of the wardens I know actually met her and said the same thing about the series I did and he said she apologized and explained that it was the show producers making it like that for dramatic effect.  The one thing I do like about that show though is that it humanizes the prison population, and reminds people on the outside that offenders are actually so much more than just their crime or their DOC number.

Whenever I meet non-prison librarians, they will ask what our collection looks like.  Many people think offenders have different reading habits and are very surprised when they hear that prison library patrons' reading tastes are the same as yours and mine.  We need to give them the opportunity to read for themselves, because if we censor all the things, how are they going to learn to make decisions for themselves about what is good for them?  People naturally want to do what other people tell them they can't, so if a prison bans Robert Greene or Laurell K. Hamilton because they don't like the "unsavory" content, they are actually not doing their offenders any favors.

Until next time!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Professional prison librarian job, apply by December 21

Hello readers!

Here is a great opportunity for a professional prison librarian position that pays well and is in a town where the cost of living is low:

Librarian II--Canon City, CO

However, you have to be a resident of Colorado, so if you are (or can be)-APPLY!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

This prison's gone to the cats and dogs!

Greetings, loyal followers!  Today, the topic is everyone's favorite thing: cute animals!  Many prisons use animals for therapy and as a way of teaching offenders a useful skill to ensure a positive re-entry.  My prison has a dog program (as you may remember from the story about the dog we were going to hire to help with our weeding haha) and my HB and I have decided that our next dog will definitely come from prison.  The patrons have really been hitting up Mintern because they think she needs a dog too haha.

Here are some websites, in case you are interested in getting a prison dog too:

Prison Pet Partnership- Washington. Provides service dogs for people with disabilities, grooming and boarding and Parolled Pets who didn't quite make it as a service dog but are still in need of a good home.  Also they have cats too!

Dawgs in Prison-Florida.  8 week training sessions to get rescued dogs ready for their forever home.

4 Paws for Ability- Ohio.  Trains assistance dogs for children worldwide.

America's Vet Dogs- Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and Florida.  Train dogs to work with America's wounded veterans.  Few things pull at my heartstrings more than dogs who help wounded veterans.  

Colorado Cell Dogs- Colorado.  Prison trained service animals and pets.  

Until next time! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Amazing program at a prison library

Hello dear readers, and Happy December!  I was Googling around about prison libraries a while back and came across this amazing program that was hosted by Denver Women's Correctional Facility in Colorado:

Now, THIS is an example of using your resources!  Malala was already in Denver for a speaking engagement, so what a fantastic idea to see if she would be willing to speak at the prison library too!  The fact that they made it around a book club for her book I am Malala is inspired, and genius!  I can see why Colorado has their reputation of one of the top prison library systems in the country.

Well done, everyone!  Thank you for being an example of being fearless and creative.  Remember, future prison librarians, it never hurts to ask for what you want because what's the worst they could say?  No?  And then if that is the case you are the same as when you started and if they say yes, then you have possibly the best program that has ever been offered in a prison library.  Although good luck making your next book club as cool. ;-)

Until next time!

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Maintenance record!

Hello loyal readers!  I hope this recent holiday found you all stuffed with turkey and enjoying football and your families, and if that's not how you celebrate then I hope whatever you did brought you great joy!

I am happy to report that the library has finally been painted!  And only seven months after I put in the work order!  Now, you may read that and think seven months?  Lady, you are loco!  But please note, future prison librarians, things in prison do not move fast at all.  Remember how I told you we still have Microsoft office 2003?  Yeah, 7 months is like the speed of light around here.

Although, to be fair, the maintenance guys are awesome, and all my other tickets get processed really fast.  Painting the library is hard work because you have to get lots of paint and move tons of books so they don't get paint splatter everywhere.  And they did an amazing job.  Mintern calls it "Buttercream."  I am going to call it "Ivory Castle."  Ha!

We are still working on an accent wall.  For some reason they just laugh hysterically when I tell them it needs to be purple...

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wacky prison weather, part 3

Hello dear readers, and happy almost Thanksgiving!  This blog took me a while to write because it was so stressful, but I have finally processed it and can laugh at it now.

The past two summers have been insane in terms of weather that is not normal for this part of the country.  Tornadoes in Tornado Alley?  OK, fine.  Tornadoes in a place that never has tornadoes?  NOT OK.

To set the scene:

Mintern and I were alone in the library office, the patrons and clerks having returned to their units for the 4 o'clock count.  I, in my fancy new office fashioned from a hand-me-down cubicle wall with door and window, was looking at the emerald green clouds swirling over the greenbelt while Mintern slaved away at her never-ending stack of interlibrary loan requests.  The clouds started moving in a counter-clockwise circle reminiscent of the last time we had a funnel cloud directly outside the library.  This summer was different though, because we now have a video camera thanks to our Read to the Children program!

I grabbed the camera and began recording.  (Because I ended up making a video but I included identifying information that can't be edited out on my phone, I am not going to post it, but instead I will post a transcript so you can see what was going on.)

Opening credits slowly appear on a black screen...Birth of a Tornado....
Me: "Alright, I'm videotaping it.  We'll put it on a everyone the birth of the tornado!"
Me: *watches in awed silence for a few seconds*
Me: "Yeah those are definitely moving around in a circle."
Mintern: "Yeah they are!"
Me: "I wonder if we should call Master Control?"
Mintern: "Did you check the weather?"
Me: "I checked the news, and it just said flood warning."
Mintern: "That is super creepy!"
Me: "Yeah."
Me: "Maybe we should call S_____." (our boss)
Mintern: "S______!" (haha)
Me: "Maybe I should call my HB."
Me: *hands the camera to Mintern*
Me, in the background on the phone with my HB who has a degree in meterology: "Yeah the two times I have been here they have not done the tornado siren though...Ok you're saying we should probably get in the closet...well I can't drive, you can't drive in a tornado!...Well it's right outside the library...Ok thank you for the weather update..."

The video ends then, because I decided that I would go against HB's advice and make a run for it and try to get home before the tornado hit.  I told Mintern to get in the closet if it got worse and I headed towards the lobby.  As I was leaving, the Shift Commander and some of the yard staff were admiring the unusual atmospheric conditions from the ground but nobody seemed overly concerned.  I made it to the lobby just as the tornado sirens started blaring but I told the lobby officer I was going to make a run for it and to wish me luck...

Now, dear readers, hindsight is 20/20.  What happened next was the most stupidest thing I could have EVER done.  I got in my Jeep and started driving home, which, as luck would have it, was right towards the center of the tornado.

I got, maybe 300 yards away from the prison when the hail started.  All of a sudden, the air around me was slate grey and thick with rain pounding my Jeep sideways.  I pulled over because I realized it wasn't smart to be driving and started surveying my options.  Conditions got worse and worse, and it sounded like the hail was going to break the glass in the windows any minute.  The wind was howling, and I felt my Jeep rock a little bit.  Cars kept driving past me and I was thinking, ARE YOU GUYS CRAZY!! THE TORNADO IS RIGHT THERE!!!!"  (I found out later that the tornado did, in fact, touch down 1/4 mile from where I was...YIKES!!!)

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I knew I had to get out of there.  I didn't care that it was a one way street, every instinct in my body was telling me to MOVE.  I threw the Jeep in drive and made a U-turn.  Luckily, nobody was coming at that moment.  I drove the wrong way down the one way street, praying that nobody would hit me and hoping that anyone seeing me scared enough to flee like that would have second thoughts about driving into the raging fury that lay ahead.  I dodged one car by mere inches and then I was back on the two lane road, headed towards my safe haven of prison.

I pulled in the parking lot pursued by pelting rain and driving hail the size of golf balls.  One hit me in the ear as I ran towards the lobby.  Seeing me coming, the staff who were smart enough to stay inside opened the door and ushered me to safety.  Outside, the storm lasted for what seemed like hours, but 30 minutes later the wind died down and the sky cleared up.  I called Mintern to check on her, and she said HB had called and she told him I left and he was extremely worried.  I never take my cell phone to work because I don't want to fry its little phone brain in the hot car, so Mintern called HB and patched him through to the lobby so I could let him know I was ok.

When I left work, the road I normally take looked like Armageddon had hit.  The bridge over the stream was flooded (I forged on through, because Jeep, but don't you do that dear readers.  Aside from driving right into the tornado, driving through a flood is the second worst thing you can do) and giant tree branches were littering the road.  The street was a green carpet of leaves and you could not even see the asphalt.  All the shutters on the houses looked like someone had thrown baseballs at them and some of the siding looked the same.  I finally made it home safely, and I definitely learned a lesson because I have never been so scared in my entire life.

But, all's well that ends well and what doesn't kill makes you stronger, and I will never scoff at the forces of nature again.

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prison in the News

Hello there readers! I was just perusing Buzzfeed and I came across this article about the tablets that have popped up in many facilities across the nation:

Apps For Inmates

While the article does make good points about teaching offenders about technology, I would like to add a side note that 3.5 seconds after they were introduced at one of our facilities, some staff members had smuggled in micro SD cards full of porn. *sigh*

Until next time!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Team Library just keeps finding pills!

Hello readers!  Do you remember when Team Library found pills in the fiber pills bottle during a shakedown, and when Mintern found the pill she thought was a Skittle in the hallway?  Well I found another pill the other day, so we could practically have a library pharmacy if we didn't take them all to the clinic!

The other day I was walking into the library and my eye was admiring our fancy new furniture when my brain sent off the warning signal that something wasn't right with the scene.  I stopped for a half second and realized what it was: A PILL!  There was small, round, white pill that was sitting under the chair, like it had fallen out of someone's pocket while they were enjoying the comfort you can't find anywhere except the library.

I picked it up in a glove because this drill becomes rote after a while and I wrote my incident report and took it to the clinic.  The nurse identified it as Wellbutrin, which is a prescription anti-depressant that should have been swallowed in Med Line, but instead was smuggled out somehow and was probably bartered for stolen library materials....but I digress.  My ears heard "Wellbutrin," but my brain heard "Ibuprofin," (the same active ingredient in Advil) and so I told the nurse she could just throw it away.  As luck would have it, the Shift Commander was standing right next to me and she interrupted the exchange with, "OR YOU COULD HAVE THE SHIFT COMMANDER TAKE A PICTURE OF IT TO SUBMIT WITH YOUR REPORT LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO!" but she said it with a smile so I didn't take any offense.  It just so happened that she had her new work cell phone there with a camera so she snapped a quick photo and I didn't even have to go to the Evidence Room.  Problem solved, and relatively quickly too!

Until next time!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day, but then also some thoughts

Patron overheard talking to her friend in the library:
"Oh no, unlike everyone else in here, I am actually guilty..."

That is one of the stereotypes of prison-that everyone inside thinks they are not guilty and are there because of The Man, or whatever.  When I first heard this patron say that, I laughed to myself but then it made me reflect on what I have observed during my six years behind the walls.  Many of my patrons are in prison because of substance abuse.  Now, I am not a mental health professional, but I have spent many hours observing and interacting with my patrons on a professionally personal level (i.e. they feel comfortable enough with me to let their guard down and share things and I direct them to library resources to help them with their information needs related to what they want to work on at the time) and I see lots of patterns.

In my opinion, substance abuse is self-medicating the deeper problem of people having pain in their lives that they find it difficult to overcome.  Working in prison has made me realize how extremely blessed I am to have come from a stable and loving home, and even though my parents divorced when I was young, they were mature enough to not let their problems bleed over into my life and they were both involved with raising me and I feel like I turned out pretty good.  However, many of my patrons had parents who abused them, took drugs in front of them when they were kids, and/or were in prison themselves, among many other things.  It's easy to sit up on a high horse and judge people who have fallen so far down that they hit rock bottom and kept digging, but how can you really know that if you had been faced with the same situations you wouldn't have turned out the same way?

One of the saddest stories I heard about one of my patrons was the girl who was 22 years old, in prison for many years, and her mom used to sell her to men to rape for drug money.  If that wasn't bad enough, she saw her brother murdered in front of her in their living room.  When I first met her, she was one of the most disrespectful people I had ever encountered and I could tell she was full of hate.  She spent more time locked up in segregation than she did in the library for the first couple years I knew her.  But then, things began to change, and she would say hello back when I said hi in the yard.  She started coming to the library more, and then one day she was showing the library clerks how to make 3D origami stars.  Stories like that really underscore the notion that you should be kind to everyone because you don't know the personal battles that people are fighting.

One of the favorite lines that the patrons say is "Oh, staff.  They are just like us, the only difference is, they haven't been caught yet."  Unfortunately, that is sometimes true.  When I first started I had an officer friend who was awesome, and then one day she wasn't at work anymore.  Turned out, she had a hot UA, or in laymen's terms, she had to take a drug test and failed.  It's really hard to maintain any credibility when you tell people not to do something and then turn around and get caught doing the same thing.

Until next time!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reader Appreciation

Greetings, dear readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with a very important message:

THANK YOU!!!!!! :-)

I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to read my blog, especially when there are many blogs out there in the world to read.  When I first started this blog oh-so-many years ago, I was super excited when I got 5 views in a week, and most of those were probably my mom, haha.  Now, I am pleased to report that this blog has more than 19,700 views!  Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that this little coping mechanism blog that I started to help people learn what it was really like being a prison librarian would appeal to so many people.  Also, I have FIFTEEN followers!  That's more people than my prison library employs!  Simply amazing.  Thank you all so much.

Because you make reading my blog a priority, I am going to make writing more blog posts a priority too.  So, for the next month, I promise that I will post new blogs at least two times per week.  Also, I have been getting many emails to my email address, so it seems to be a great way to connect with you about questions specific to your situation.  Keep them coming, I want to answer questions YOU want to know about!

Until next time, which won't be as long as last time!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Clerk: "I think this library needs to get its priorities straight."
Mintern: "How so?"
Clerk *Pulls out Homer's Odyssey and Homer's The Odyssey* "Why do we have two copies of a book about a stupid blind cat, but we don't have one copy of The Stand?"
Mintern had to hold back a laugh as she explained that we don't have two copies of a book about the cat. One is about the cat. The other is a Greek Classic. 
It was a priceless moment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In memoriam

Greetings readers,
It's your wayward neighborhood prison librarian here again. You know how one day you're working on something and then get distracted with other things and then all of a sudden it's three months later? Apologies. And also sorry if the title of this blog caused any concern- Mintern and I are fine but we have some sad news to report.

Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler, whom you may remember from previous blog entries, has gone to that Great 'hood in the Sky. One day Mintern and I noticed that we hadn't seen him during deliveries for a while so we looked him up and it turned out that it was because he had passed away a few weeks prior. Apparently he had been taken to the hospital for some routine procedures but when the staff brought him a sandwich he got upset and told them "I'm not going to eat this!!" Thinking nothing of it, they stepped out of his room for a bit and when they came back he was dead.

Now, dear readers, you may feel a tinge of sadness for Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler but do not fret! He was NOT going to eat that sandwich and he didn't, which showed real commitment to his convictions right to the very end.

Until next time!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

And now, some history

Greetings readers!  This blog comes to us courtesy of loyal follower Viviana S.  She created a very interesting infographic about the history of prisons in the United States.  Viviana writes:

The United States has the most prisons in the world in order to house the highest number of incarcerated people in the world. 707 per every 100,000 people can be found in a prison. Out of every 100 citizens, 3 work in the justice system. 1 in 9 State employees works in corrections. How this vast prison system evolved is examined by looking back at what there was before modern prisons existed.

Thanks, Viviana, for sharing your scholarship!  Until next time!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Here's an awesome job, move fast!!

Denver Women's Correctional Facility (Colorado)
Librarian II

If you are a Colorado resident and have some professional library experience under your belt and are looking to get into prison as a supervisor, apply for this rare opportunity in Denver.  It closes in a week though so move fast.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Patron: "Yeah, I need to know where it's written that I can't run with a toothbrush in my mouth!"

Me: "Um, that's more of a common sense rule..."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another job!

Limon Correctional Facility (Colorado)

Here is a job for a Library Technician II in Colorado. If you are a Colorado resident, or can be quickly, this would be a good entry level position to get your foot in the door in prison libraries.  A good tip I heard for applying in Colorado--make sure you follow the instructions and thoroughly detail your experience to be considered.  Don't assume that HR will infer anything.  (This is a tough state in which to get hired.)

The application deadline is July 14.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More job!

Just one today :-)

Arapahoe County Detention Center (Colorado)
Customer Experience/Advisory Specialist - Detention Center Library
This is a unique prison library position because it is actually at a jail and instead of being employed by the jail, you are employed by the library district.  It is also part-time, but if we have learned anything in library school, it is that do anything you can to get your foot in the door and prove yourself.  

Remember, review my hiring tips to help your application stand out above all others!

Until next time!

Library Ghost stories, Episode 9

Greetings, dear readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with some more *cue creepy music* taaaaaaaaales from the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaark side.

The other day, Mintern had sent the library clerks back and was wrapping up her evening when she heard someone giggling in the library.  Thinking it was someone who was amused that Mintern had forgotten her, she went out to investigate and encourage the wayward clerk or patron to head back to her unit.  However, when she went out there--NOBODY WAS THERE.

Thinking they might be playing a game, Mintern did a sweep of the library to look behind the circ desk and shelves and still... NOBODY WAS THERE.

Dodedodo Dodedodo Dodedodo......

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Library Ghost stories, Episode 8

So last week Mintern was on a mini-vacation and I was by myself and having a rather stressful day.  I got back to the library from running errands all over the facility and all I wanted to do was sit in my office and catalog in peace.  I turned the lights off in the library to indicate that nobody was home and made my way to my office.  As I was sitting down at my desk, I heard three quick knocks on my door and I glanced up to see who it was.  (I thought it might be a staff member because I locked the door and had the lights off, but someone could still come in if they had keys.)

I saw what looked like a white face looking at me, and since I hadn't been too focused when I was glancing, I made a concerted effort to look at the door and say hi.  However, when I moved my body enough to get a full-on view of the door NOBODY WAS THERE.  I KNOW I heard the knocks though because frankly, I was annoyed to have to make polite conversation haha.

Library Ghost strikes again!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So you want to be a prison librarian? Well here are some jobs that are open RIGHT MEOW

I came across these and I felt like I should share them with my dear readers, just in case anyone is inspired to take the leap into the field.

California Department of Corrections
Library Technical Assistant 
Senior Librarian 
The salaries are not terrible (although if you are paying off an expensive MLIS, I would not recommend applying for the Library Technical Assistant) and it says the recruitment process is "continuous" because there are positions open across California.  The qualifications assessment is pretty in-depth, but not too bad if you are serious about working in prison.

Washington Department of Corrections
Branch Library Associate (In-training)
Here, you actually work for the Secretary of State's office but there are positions open in three facilities.  These positions do not require a MLIS and the salaries reflect that, but I hear WA is one of the premier prison library systems and it would be a good entry into prison librarianship.

Illinois Department of Corrections
Library Associate
Starting salary is $3,508 so not too shabby.  Apply by 6/5/15.

Gadsden Correctional Facility in Florida
Library Manager
Click Search Openings and do a keyword search for Library.  However, be aware that this is a private prison, which means it is for-profit.  It is also a women's prison, so be prepared to deal with a lot of patron drama haha.

Remember, some states have residency requirements for employment.  Just read the instructions carefully so you don't waste your time and the recruiter's time.  I will keep posting more as I find them, and if you want me to look over your resume and/or cover letter you can email me at

Until next time!

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Clerk: "Yeah, I had 7 brothers and sisters growing up and we liked to do 'experiments' with the vacuum cleaner so it was always broken.  That made my dad mad so he would make us clean the carpet with our hands.  No one can clean a carpet like me!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wow, what a day...

Greetings, dear readers!  It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with another story from the trenches.

Today I witnessed my first use of force- up close.  My supervisor, colleagues, and I were having our weekly meeting when we heard a commotion over the radio.  Everyone looked around with raised eyebrows as we awaited more information.  Seconds later, the call came over the radio "WE NEED FIRST RESPONDERS TO UPPER PROGRAMS!"

Because there are some officers on my team, and because when an incident is happening in your area, you respond no matter who you are, we all went running out of the library to assist.  We heard the screaming all the way at the other end of the hallway* which made us run even faster.  When we got to the west stairwell, an offender was in a wheelchair screaming "I'M CONFUSED!!!  I'M SO CONFUSED!!!" as other staff were trying to calm her down.  Rather than calming down though, she just kept escalating and when one of the staff told her that they were going to restrain her with handcuffs she attempted to stand up from her wheel chair and started fighting.

Now, when an offender refuses your verbal direction, you have some options but you need to get them back under control as soon as possible.  Hopefully you all will go through training (we go through a pressure point control tactics training class) so that you don't get hurt.  As soon as the offender stood up, 6 staff engaged her to get her on the ground.  I was not close enough to see if they were using any of the pressure points, but she was definitely not making it easy for them to get the cuffs on her.  Once she was on the ground with her hands behind her back, she started spitting at the staff and banging her head on the cement floor.  Despite repeated orders to stop banging her head and calm down, all she did was bang harder and yell expletives at the staff.

Once she was handcuffed, they attempted to put leg restraints on her.  She was not having it though and some of the staff almost got a boot to the face.  She was finally restrained with handcuffs, put in an escort chair (a chair with straps and cutouts for hands that are handcuffed behind the person's back) and outfitted with a spit mask and taken off to segregation.  As we debriefed with each other, it was discovered that she had been let up the elevator despite the fact that it was not scheduled movement and her appointment was not for 30 more minutes.  When the teacher who intercepted her asked her where she was going and then informed her that the other teacher she was there to see was not even in the building at the moment, she absolutely lost it.  Now, while this is not "normal" behavior for most people, this offender is a 4 out of 5 on the mental health needs scale, which means she has severe mental health issues.

As scary as this situation may sound, I was thankful that there were so many staff around to handle the situation.  This same thing could happen in a public library (mental health problems are not limited to prison library patrons) but in that setting, there are not responders 3 seconds away.  However, this could just as easily have happened in my library.  Sometimes people are not happy when their hold expires, or one of their books is missing or damaged and they have to pay for it.  I highly recommend playing the what-if game with this kind of situation, that way if it does happen you at least have a plan for how to deal with it.  This is also an important reminder that rules are there for a reason, and if someone is there unauthorized, they should NOT be allowed to go into the area.  There have been many incidents of offenders getting into places where they shouldn't be and staff getting taken hostage and hurt.  As much as we try and model a public library, it is still prison and there are still dangerous people there.  Library service is important, but personal safety is paramount.

Until next time.

*To give you an idea of how long the hallway is, I had Mintern measure it with her Fitbit and it took approximately 250 steps to get from one end to the other.  It's a pretty long hallway.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Now I know how the ghosts feel

Greetings dear readers!

Oy, today was a crazy day! Mintern was out sick so I was running the ship solo again. I had forgotten how much work that was, especially because I decided I would help Mintern with the interlibrary loans so she wouldn't be too far behind when she gets back. When I left I felt like I could work for 10 more hours and still not be done and when I passed by the lobby officer I told him:

"Now I know how the ghosts feel! I have so much unfinished business in the library that if I died tonight I would definitely be haunting this place tomorrow."

Speaking of Library Ghosts, we were out to a lunch meeting the other day and one of my colleagues who used to be Medical Security told me that he and a bunch of nurses used to see a black, triangle-shaped shadow that would race along the ceiling of the clinic and make the lights flicker in its wake. What's even creepier is he said he only started seeing it after a certain offered died. AND GUESS WHO THAT OFFENDER WAS?!?!?


Weird, eh. 

Anyway, I'm off to bed since it will be my physical rather than spectral form appearing at work tomorrow. Until next time!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Team Library- We find Pills. AGAIN!

Greetings readers!

Yesterday Mintern found a pill outside the bathroom! Thinking it was a skittle, she picked it up and then upon realizing what it was, immediately brought it to me for direction.

(Note: Mintern may or may not have once dropped a pistachio on the office floor and then picked it up to eat it because 10 Second Rule, only to find out it was not the pistachio... Don't judge her lol.)

As long time readers may remember from the last time we found pills, we immediately took it to the clinic for identification and to see if she needed to officially report her findings.

Upon further review, the pill turned out to be a stool-softener. (That would explain why she found it outside the bathroom...) The nurse disposed of it and our adventure for the day was concluded. It may have been Mintern's first found pill, but it definitely won't be the last!

Until next time!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

So as a part of Money Smart Week, we had a clerk draw some money (million dollar bills, naturally) that we then copied on green paper and posted ALL over the library.  When she was putting it up, Mintern overheard the following conversation between the clerk and a patron:

Patron: "What are you doing?"
Clerk: "Can't you see?  I'm counterfeiting money!"
Patron: "Oh, that's cool!"
Clerk: "Yeah, I could teach you how to counterfeit if you'd ever stop doing DRUGS!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Money, Money, MONEY!

Hello Readers!  And happy Money Smart Week!  As you may or may not know, Money Smart Week, or MSW for short (or M$W if you are awesome like me writing it on my calendar haha) is a public awareness campaign designed to promote financial literacy.  In existence since 2002, it has finally made its way to prison!  (Not surprising, as we are 10+ years behind on a lot of things, including my work computer's version of Microsoft Office 2003.  Mintern had to literally re-learn it because she was barely even born when that version came out.)

Anyway, I am so happy to finally have the opportunity to do some MSW programs for our patrons, and if your administrators are ok with it, I highly recommend doing some MSW programming for your facilities next year.

This week our plans included a financial literacy movie which discussed women and money specifically.  It was on Sunday, and despite some snafus with staffing, Mintern was able to pull it off AND have the library open.  Way to go Mintern! :-)  We were a little sketchy about the movie because it was released in 2008 and we all know about the Great Recession in 2008... But we discovered it is still being sold on the PBS website so we assigned a project to one of our detail-oriented clerks to watch the movie and determine if it had a bunch of sound financial advice, or if it promoted investing in sub-prime mortgages or some other financial shenanigans.  She reported that it was sound and was actually very informative, so we decided to go with it.

Another thing we are doing all week is Money Jeopardy, which was invented by Mintern.  Since we have SO MUCH cardboard in the library (I *may* be a hoarder.  Don't judge me.) she designed a giant board with flip-up panels that have the answers in the form of a question and patrons can fill out an answer sheet and we are going to give prizes to the top 60 patrons.  So basically if you participate you have a good chance of getting at least a notepad, and everyone who plays will get a bookmark.  We also discussed taking one of our mustache bookmarks and cutting it out and taping it to Mintern's face and then she would walk around wearing a name tag that says "Ms. Trebek" and sing the Jeopardy theme song...  :-)

Our third and main event is a guest speaker who is going to talk about how to plan for your future, which is so important for our patrons because they are oftentimes living hand-to-mouth and usually supporting children.  Usually guest speakers hosted by the library don't have that great of a turn-out but this event had 87 people sign up (I was expecting maybe 10.  Maybe.)  and I had at least 20 people ask if they could still come even if they didn't sign up.  The speaker also happens to be one of my best friends (one way to succeed in prison programs-ask your friends if they want to come share their expertise.  Then, reward them with wine!  But not prison wine, because that's just nasty.) who is a professional retirement specialist.  In prison, there is not that much money for programs, so USE YOUR RESOURCES.  Plus, it makes people feel good to help people, so unless they are professional motivational speakers (one was paid $4,000 to come speak at prison last year.  Holy S***!  Do you know that that is my ENTIRE book budget for the year???  But I digress...) they will usually come and speak for free.

We are also displaying all of our financial literacy materials on table displays rather than on the shelves, so hopefully that will increase circulation because they are right by the door.  Finally, I think I am going to find some puzzles to print too, because people always want free puzzles.  Remember, passive programs are programs too!

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into what prison library programming looks like.  We may not have the biggest budget, but we are nothing if not resourceful, so I think it will be good.

Until next time!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An unfortunate thing happened on the way to the library...

Good evening, dear readers!

As you can tell from the post title, an unfortunate thing happened on the way to the library the other day for one of my clerks.  It was time for our afternoon sessions and it had been a fairly normal day.  However, after movement was called for the library, Mintern and I heard a commotion on the radio.  We didn't catch what was happening, other than they needed "first responders" to the west stairs.  Since neither Mintern nor I are designated first responders and we had a few patrons and clerks arrive in the library already, protocol states that we remain in place and manage our offenders in our area, rather than running out to be the hero in an unknown situation.*

We knew it was not going to be good when an overhead announcement was made closing the yard and locking everyone down.  This usually happens when there is a fight or other significant disturbance, so we had more of an idea what was going on.  We also saw our officer colleague running down the hallway to assist so we knew whatever was going on was urgent, especially because she is pregnant but in prison, being pregnant is not an excuse to not respond if your help is needed.

While Mintern and I waited in the library and helped our patrons and clerks who had made it prior to the incident, we speculated on what the cause might be.  We were both in agreement that it was probably involving someone who was coming to the library...  We weren't locked down for too long, probably about 10-15 minutes or so, and when everything was finally back under control, we learned the reason for all the drama.

Our missing clerks arrived, white-faced and wide-eyed.  It turns out that one of our clerks had been attacked by her on-again, off-again girlfriend in the stairwell while coming to the library for work.  Apparently, this clerk was walking with one of her friends, and the girlfriend became super jealous and started attacking our clerk.  She bit her hand so hard that she broke the skin and it was bleeding.  Then, when she had delivered the beat-down to our clerk, she ran after the friend and beat her up too.  I could tell it stressed our clerks out because they were very quite when normally they are happy to come to work, and one made the comment, "Ugh, skin on skin punching is NOT something I ever want to hear again!"  They reported that our clerk was not fighting back (in prison, if you fight back when you are attacked, you are liable to get a fighting write-up as well) and that they all got sprayed with OC because the officer who deployed it did it from a bit of a further range than is recommended.

All three of the offenders were taken to Segregation (in prison terms, they were RFP'd or "Removed from Population") in order to give them some cooling off time and also to give staff time to sort out what happened.  I haven't been back to work since then due to vacation and training, so I don't know what has happened, or if we can expect that clerk to return to work.  Generally, if they don't get a write-up we will retain them, especially in this situation because this clerk has come so far with regards to her personality since she started working there.  When she first started, she would not work at the Circ desk, and basically just wanted to shelve books and not talk to patrons.  Now, she makes awesome displays and actually engages patrons and even staff and provides really good reader's advisory services for Urban Fiction and Gay and Lesbian Fiction.

Unfortunately, incidents like this serve as a harsh reminder of the environment in which the prison library exists.  Don't let this scare you away, readers, but rather just let it be a lesson and a head's up that sometimes these things happen.  It could have been a lot worse--the girlfriend could have had a weapon, or the attack could have happened in the library.  I am interested to see what the result of the investigation is when I get back tomorrow, and I will keep you all informed.

Until next time!

*Note: when I was in a uniform and carried OC, I probably would have gone, but being in professional dress with no defense tactics other than what I learned at PPCT, I made the decision to stay in the library.  This is a situation you may come across in your prison librarian careers.  I highly suggest playing the "What IF..." game so that way if an emergency arises, you are not caught in the paralysis of indecision.  For example-what would you do if you noticed a scuffle between a Mental Health staff member who has an office directly across from the library and an offender?  Would you A.) Run over there and start throwing down; B.) Call for help on the radio or using the duress alarm and watch the situation from the safety of your library; or C.) Call for help with the radio or duress alarm, tell your offenders to sit down and lock down and go over to help your fellow staff member?  These are the things you need to think about.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Today's Prison Laugh o' the Day is brought to you by one of our interlibrary loan request:

"Subject requested: French for idiot's"

Hahahahaha awwwww...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Our patrons love to look for signs from the universe in everyday occurrences...

Patron: "I saw two spiders! I need to know what that means!"
Me: "You mean, besides that you might have a spider problem?"


Monday, March 23, 2015

I Still Can't Make This Stuff Up!!

Greetings readers! Some of you might remember the post about how I can't make stuff up in prison. (Refresh your memory here:  I Can't Make This Stuff Up)
Well today I had a conversation with this patron about three more missing items for which she was charged. Essentially the jist of the conversation was her saying I shouldn't have charged her because she turned in those books and why would she keep them if she didn't want to pay for them and me disagreeing because I got something back in the mail from her mom THAT HAD BEEN STOLEN FROM THE LIBRARY.
The best part of the conversation?
Patron: "Oh yeah, and my mom wants that book back because she paid for it!"

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Sometimes you just have no idea what you're going to find yourself saying some days...

Patron: "What kinds of books are these?"
Me: "Well, that one is lesbian fiction and the other two are chick-lit/ easy summer reading."
Patron: "So, lesbian as in two girls?"
Me: "Yes."
Patron: "And fiction as in not true?"
Me: "Yes."
Patron: "So, girl on girl and not true story?"
Me: "Yes."
Patron: "AWESOME! Thanks!!!"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Patron: "You cut your hair!"
Me: "No I didn't."
Patron: "Yes you did!"
Me: "No. I didn't."
Patron: "Yes you did! You are a fibber."

Little did she know, all I did differently this morning was blow-dry my hair muahahahahahaha!

And now, more interview tips!

This seems to be a popular topic, so here are some more tips that I recently shared with a loyal reader via our new email address:

When I interview people for my library, I like to ask a mix of your "standard" HR questions (i.e. what are your goals for the next 5 years, do you work better alone or in a group, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc.) and situational questions about things you will encounter in a prison library. The answers I am looking for are not necessarily right or wrong but will give me an idea about your ability to creatively problem solve and your trainability.

Some of my favorite situational questions are:
"A patron comes up to you and tells you he/she was just diagnosed with herpes and they want to learn more about their diagnosis. What do you do?"

"You see two patrons sitting very close and holding hands. Your library has a strict no-touching policy. How do you handle this?"

"A patron comes up to you and starts telling you about their kids. Then, they ask you about your kids. How do you respond?"

"A staff member comes into the library with a severely damaged book and demands to know who has it checked out so they can write the offender up. Your library has a patron privacy policy. What do you do?"

Generally, you will never go wrong with situational questions if you cite policy, or if you say something along the lines of you will follow whatever policy is in place.

I also really like it when candidates have questions for me at the end of the interview. If it's not covered in the intro, it would be good to ask about what kind of training you can expect. Also ask about their collection development policy and what the library looks like.  (If you can take a tour even better.) Ask them what personality type will succeed in this position because you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Make sure you take plenty of copies of your resume and get the card of the supervisor so you can send a thank you after the interview.

Good luck with all your interviews, dear readers, and please feel free to ask if you have further questions.

Until next time!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This is what customer service looks like in prison

Greetings Readers!

The other day, I had a voice mail on my internal-line phone, which is weird because my colleagues usually just hang up and try me on the radio if they get the voice mail.  I checked the message and was surprised to hear that it was one of our recently-returned-to-prison patron's father.  I couldn't hear much of it because it sounded like he had his phone to his shoulder and it kept slipping.  Luckily, he repeated the important information and his phone number at the end of the message so I thought "I am going to take ownership of this person's problem and call him back and see how I can help" since the State is really trying to focus on providing both internal and external customers with excellent service.

That was my first mistake.

When I called this man back, his first words were, "IS THIS THE PRISON LIBRARIAN??"  I replied that it was I, and inquired as to how I could help.  He then launched into a tirade about how his daughter got arrested and her $10,000 car was impounded and he needed to get it and the impound place wouldn't let him get it so he went to the jail and they gave him a form but she wasn't in the jail anymore so the form was no good so he needed first of all us to let her out to see him so she could sign the form and barring that he needed me to get her the form to sign because he just got out of prison himself and he knows that it takes MONTHS to get on the visiting list and it's not right that she should lose a $10,000 car because nobody can go get it so shouldn't somebody be able to help him and if I couldn't then the Warden needed to because it is not right that he can't get her $10,000 car.


Still, I was trying to provide the good customer service, so I said "Ok, let me look into it and I will get back to you."  I contacted the case manager, who said he had already talked to this man and told him he couldn't help him.  I tried the Law Librarian, since it sounded like what he needed was a Power of Attorney form, but as luck would have it, she was out of the facility that day.  Running out of viable options, I Googled the impound place and wrote down the number for him.  I called him back and was treated to another long-winded lecture about how it's not right that she is going to lose her $10,000 car because nobody will help him and we are all terrible people and we are no better than the Communists in China.

Wait, did he just call me a Communist?

Well, I guess I can't get too mad at that, because I do believe that all people should have equitable access to what they need, and I've been called a bleeding heart liberal since I am a librarian, so ok.  If it makes you feel better to call me a Communist then whatever.

"Sir, I am just the Prison Librarian and my sphere of influence is very limited," I told him when he paused for a breath, "I am doing the best I can to help you but at this point I think that your best option is to call the impound place and beg for a few days' mercy due to the circumstances."

He then hung up on me.  Problem solved!

So, dear readers, what did we learn from this?  If random people get transferred to the library, just pass the info to the case manager and leave it at that.  Helping people at that level is WAY above your pay-grade.

After he hung up, I figured I would enter a note on the patron's account just in case he called again, the next person would have a head's up and I found that not only had he talked to me, he had talked to TWO other case managers AND the Warden's Admin.  Who all told him the same thing.

In closing, here is everything I wanted to say but couldn't because of my professional filter:

"Dear Dude, I am very sorry your daughter messed up and violated her parole and got her car impounded.  However, it sounds like she didn't have the best role model growing up.  Generally, when you yell and call people names, they are not going to bend over backwards to help you.  Your daughter losing her car is one of the consequences of bad behavior, and maybe she will think twice next time before violating her parole.  It's not likely, but every time we see her we get another opportunity to help her make better life choices.  I hope you got everything worked out, best of luck to you.  Sincerely, the Prison Librarian to whom you should never have been transferred but who tried to help you anyway and all she got out of it was a funny blog post."

Until next time!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Or, why I don't post blogs every day....
Good evening Readers, and happy St. Patrick's Day!  Whether you are out partying it up because you can and viewing this blog at a later date or reading this blog on the biggest drinking day of the year because you finally have an "adult job" and have to work at 7:30 tomorrow morning, welcome.
I want to say thank you to loyal follower Josh Rimmer for showcasing Mintern and the blog, because thanks to him we had the most views in the shortest amount of time EVER!  But it also got me to thinking--maybe people who are new to the blog have a lot to catch up on, but people who have read all the old posts might be getting bored because I don't post every day.  So I wanted to offer an explanation as to why posts don't show up on a daily basis.
First of all, in the very beginning, my goal was to help one person with their decision to come to prison (as a librarian) and I said if I could help ONE person, I would be happy.  Well about 12 months ago, one of my colleagues told me the following:
Colleague: "You know, you are the reason I'm here."
Me: "Oh really, how so?"
Colleague: "When I was interviewing for this job, it was my third interview and I was still undecided.  So I did some research and came across your blog and I read it and thought, 'I can do this!'"
So, there was my one person, and I was so flattered and excited.  Then Mintern, (and we all know how that's going!) so now I am 200% OF MY QUOTA!  I AM SO AWESOME!
Another reason is that prison is very tiring.  Some days I come home and I am so exhausted from dealing with prison drama and frustrated that I can't put a funny spin on it, and I definitely don't want this blog to become a complain-fest, so I wait until I am in a better mood.
So dear readers, please know that I value each and every one of you and your blog views and a huge thank you to my 5 awesome followers.  Sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day is the thought that I can make people laugh with all the craziness that goes on and it's good to know that I'm not just talking to myself and occasionally my mom.
Until next time!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Adventures with Inventory

Hello dear readers!  Last week we completed an inventory of our library collection.  I did not blog about this right away because of the drama, but I am finally at a place where I can laugh about it.

Compared to most public libraries, our collection is very modest.  We have approximately 9,000 items in circulation which is a little bit low for the size of our population, but I would rather weed books that have pages torn out and coffee stains in them than have the recommended amount of items with half of them being disgusting.  But, prison weeding is a topic for a whole other blog...

Anyway, this was our first inventory in 5 years, and nobody was going to help us.  It was up to us to rely on a text-heavy set of instructions and two borrowed wireless scanners.  Like so many things in prison libraries, we were just going to have to figure it out.  (Note, if you like to work with extensive direction and don't prefer to be adventurous and think for yourself, a prison library may not be the place for you.  On the other hand, if you don't like to be micro-managed and are a creative self-starter, then we'd love to have you!)

About an hour into the inventory, Mintern and I and the clerks were finding our rhythm and actually doing really well.  We overcame the stress of having two computers not set up correctly and just made it work with the other two clerk computers and our staff computers.  Mintern and I had a good system going where we would switch off who was scanning and who was verifying with each cart-load of books.  (Note: you can't think too much when you are just reading strings of numbers from a computer screen or you will transpose them or make other mistakes.  It's very "Librarian Zen" haha.)  We were doing so well in fact, that we finished 4 hours ahead of schedule!

We sent the clerks back and made the necessary notifications that we had completed scanning, then sat back to await our missing items report.  We were very proud of ourselves-and then the phone rang...

Me: "Library, how may I help you?"
IT: "You're going to hate me."
Me: "Um....why?"
IT: "I didn't know the computers were logged in as 'Clerk' so it didn't save any of your work."
Me: "WHAT?!?"
IT: "Yeah, you set it up wrong, so it didn't save to the hard drive."
Me: "Well, how was it supposed to be set up?"
IT: "You were supposed to log in as 'Student.'"
Me: "And how was I supposed to know that?  That information was never communicated to me, nor is it in the instructions!!  Can't you just copy and paste the information onto your computer and email it to us?"
IT: "No, I closed it before I realized it wasn't saved."
Me: "Oh you've got to be kidding me..."
IT: "Nope, sorry."

I hung up then because I couldn't believe it.  ALL that work, and for nothing.  I told Mintern the terrible news, to which she replied, "Ha.  Well that's typical for this place." (That's sad that she knows that and she hasn't even worked here for that long.)

So the moral of this story is that when you are doing a prison inventory, know what important questions to ask IT before you start scanning everything to avoid losing all your information.

The clerks were also dismayed and weren't amused by my explanation that it was a GREAT practice run.  They say we owe them pizza for next time, and I laughed and said "We'll see."  I think IT needs to buy them pizza and possibly come and do all the scanning themselves next time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mintern's made it to the big time!

Greetings, Readers!  Today I want to share some big news with you about Mintern: she was interviewed for a blog post on the library job aggregator INALJ* and you can read the article here. 

Mintern spoke on the condition of anonymity so our former patrons or future patrons would not cause any shenanigans for her.   Also, prison policies state "Thou shalt not talk to the media without the Supreme Media Person's approval under penalty of DEATH or at the very least, firing..." so since Mintern likes her job, she could not very well come out and say "I am so and so and I represent the _____ DOC."  Prison politics are very strict about that kind of thing and they really want to control what kind of information comes out of that environment.  That's why this blog is "anony-mish."  We are never going to say who we are on here, but if you meet us at a conference, it will probably come out over drinks at happy hour.  Not that I don't say anything on here that I wouldn't say to the administration's face, but I don't want to cause any unnecessary problems.

I am very proud of Mintern-in the interview she is very articulate and has excellent reasons for choosing the prison library profession.  For all of you contemplating making the switch to a library career behind bars, I would suggest emailing any questions for which you want answers from a newbie perspective to and I will make sure she gets the email.

Until next time!

*Note: librarians LOVE acronyms, and this one is one that new MLIS grads say frequently: "I NEED A LIBRARY JOB!"  Haha.  Classic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Overheard on the radio:
Yard Tech: "Control! I need first responders to the east yard!!"
Control: "Attention First Responders, unknown situation, east yard."
Control: "Yard Tech? What's your situation?"
Yard Tech: "Disregard. It's just a bunch of offenders crowded around a puppy."


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Greetings readers! Tonight's musings center around the new acronym I created: WWMD: World-wide Weapons of Mass Destruction! Oh wait, that's a different blog haha...

WWMD stands for What Would Mintern Do? This came to me after I was eavesdropping on one of Mintern's phone conversations today. She is SO nice! Her tone is happy and pleasant, and you can tell she genuinely enjoys her job. So, future prison librarians, I am going to use this acronym when people are driving me nuts and all I want to do is yell at them, and I encourage you to do so as well.

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stop the presses!!

Greetings, dear readers!

Lots of happenings in the prison library lately. Mintern continues to excel, and to present a more united front for our patrons, I got a head start on the new AR and started wearing professional dress two weeks ago. You would think that our patrons have never seen a librarian dressing like a librarian before from all the comments I have been getting.

Some of the best:
Patron: " You changed your outfit!"
Me: "Uniforms are SO last season."

Staff: "I love that sweater! Nordstrom?"
Me: "Target!"

Patron: "I love your outfit! Where did you get it?"
Me: "Target!"
Patron: "All of it?"
Me: "Well no, just the sweater. The pants are from Maurices."
Patron: "And then what about your boots?"
Me: "Oh. Those are just Ugg boots."
Patron: "They KNEW it!" *wheeled back to her friends who knew what Ugg boots looked like*

Surprisingly though all the comments have been positive. Nobody has told me that I really should switch back to the uniform haha.  Not that I'm there to impress anyone but at least it's nice to know that I don't look completely terrible.

My favorite look though is my REI-chic button up shirt and Kuhl pants. It's nice to finally wear pants that I like!

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

To my colleague who left and I didn't even get to say goodbye

You know who you are and I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed working with you over the past year. Even though we were far away and didn't get to hang out in person mucb, your humor and expertise will definitely be missed. You were an awesome addition to our Librarian team and wherever you go next will be lucky to have you!
I hope you have a good life back at home and that you have lots of snuggle time with your puppies whom you left behind for a while during your tenure with us. If you ever need anything you know my email address.
P.S. we got the missing dictionary back in the courier on Monday so don't worry, we won't be charging your account despite the many threatening overdue notices we have sent. ;-)
Until we meet again at ALA!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Shiny new contact info

Greetings dear readers!

I wanted to let you know that I have set up an email address to correspond with this blog. The purpose of this is twofold: it allows me to keep this blog "anonym-ish" and also provides a different platform for readers who have questions about prison librarianship but don't want to leave them on the blog.

So, from now on, you can contact Mintern and me at

Until next time!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Today a patron checked out the book The Martian, which invariably led to a conversation about how space is portrayed in Sci-Fi.  One of our clerks is a huge sci-fi fan, so she has extensive experience with the genre:

Clerk #1: "I don't want to go to space!  It's all empty and scary and people get mutated there!"
Clerk #2: *Coming to the conversation late* "Where is this vacation place?  China??"


Until next time!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mintern meets OC

Hi readers!

In order to carry pepper spray on a daily basis at a prison in my state, you first have to be exposed to it. While it might initially sound really mean to make all DOC employees experience the cruel, blinding burn of pepper spray, the state requires exposure for legitimate reasons. First, the department of corrections wants to make sure that you aren’t allergic to the chemicals. Second, it is an absolute certainty that pepper spray is used in prison settings. Whether you are in the middle of the fray or you just accidentally walk through the outskirts of the mist, the department wants to ensure that you can operate effectively while experiencing the negative effects of the demon juice.

Now, I am not a huge fan of spicy foods. The mild sauce from Taco Bell has been known to make me tear up, so you can only imagine what a face full of OC did to me. All 100 of my classmates and I lined up single-file outside of a tiny, little brown shed. In groups of four, we entered the shed. Upon entering, our training instructors filled the shed with OC. It was stifling. My eyes instantly started tearing up, and I was involuntarily coughing left and right. While in the shed we had to shout loud, repetitive instructions to a fake offender as we aimed our own individual cans of OC at an outline of a person on one of the shed walls. After our training officers were satisfied with our performance, we rushed out of the shed and had to successfully demonstrate knee strikes on a training mat. Our instructors said that rubbing our eyes would make the burning worse, so I made sure not to touch any part of my face. While I didn’t get direct exposure, I got enough to know that any amount of pepper spray is bound to be a pretty unpleasant experience.

Until next time! Mintern, over and out.

P.S. Special note to all the guybrarian readers out there: A few dudes in my training class didn’t wash their hands after exposure… Let’s just say that they were in more than a little pain after our first restroom break following exposure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

For your reading pleasure, a new blog from Mintern

Hello readers!

This was the best week of training ever! I got to meet one of the super awesome dogs that the Department of Corrections keeps on staff. There are nine dogs that work for the department. They travel from facility to facility to sniff out bombs and narcotics, and they follow the scent trails of escaped offenders! The dogs can pick up the trail of an escaped offender from miles away. That’s pretty amazing!

For the presentation today, one of the dog trainers stowed a little bit of marijuana in the purse of one of my fellow classmates. When the (cute but ferocious) dog was brought into the room it barked and barked until the dog trainer gave him some slack to hunt out the contraband. The doggy found it within minutes and quietly sat right next to the purse-in-question until the dog trainer discovered the drugs and gave the puppy his favorite chew toy as a prize.

The dog trainers said that anyone in the department of corrections is welcome to cross-train with them for a day. If I cross-train with the dog trainers, I would get to see the dog in action in a real prison and help make sure the dog stays on top of his game by doing drills. So my new mission in life is to think up an irrefutable reason that a prison librarian needs to cross-train with the narcotics doggy. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Mintern, over and out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Greetings, Readers!

Mintern and I spent the majority of last week re-arranging the office with the help of some awesome maintenance guys and our library muscles.  Today's laugh comes from the moment when we had my desk half-stuck in the doorway, all of our work in random piles and empty boxes that I save in case I need them strewn across the remainder of the office furniture and one maintenance guy trapped under the desk trying to unscrew the screws of the L shape so it would fit.

Me: "This is awesome!  I feel like I am on an episode of House Hunters: Renovation!"
Mintern: "Really??...I was going to say Hoarders..."

So I have a lot of empty boxes in the office.  Don't judge me! ;-)

Until next time!

Friday, January 23, 2015

And now, a blog from Mintern

Hi readers!

Mintern, here, reporting from basic training. Today was kind of a bummer. We spent all day learning about mental health awareness and learning trauma informed practices. A huge number of offenders in the prison system suffer from mental health issues. It’s important to acknowledge these issues and use fair, firm and consistent communication through an individualized approach in order to take the mental health of the offender into consideration during every single interaction.

We also talked about trauma informed practice. There is a large population of offenders who have experienced trauma in their lives. This means that the stressful prison environment is even more difficult. Anything could be a trigger that might cause the offender to be re-victimized. 

Although we discussed mental health awareness and trauma informed practice for a full eight hours, we really only scratched the surface.  I got an overview of mental health issues like borderline personality and schizophrenia, and I received information about talking with rape survivors and victims of PTSD. But I barely feel prepared to take on the responsibility of providing resources to such a diverse population. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a more interdisciplinary approach to my Master’s degree. It definitely would have paid off to have a class under my belt like abnormal psychology or human behavior.

Mintern, over and out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler meets Mintern. Again.

Hello readers, and Happy Tuesday!

You may remember the following  character from a few blogs back: Mr. Dr. Street Thug Hustler--the smooth-talkin' cat from the 'hood who has a doctorate in Streetology and a penchant for the ladies. Today he met Mintern (for the third time) and had a grand old time telling her all sorts of things while we did our Tuesday deliveries. Since I was busy helping patrons as well, I didn't get to hear the entire conversation but here are some snippets overheard and reported by Mintern.

M.D.S.T.H.: "Well hellllllllo there ladies! How you doin'."
Us: "We're good thanks, how are you?"
M.D.S.T.H.: "Oh you know. I been sickly lately. First time I've been up and about in DAYS."
(Note: he was up and about last week too. But we all know how prison time works and maybe he forgot that he was cruising around last week.)


M.D.S.T.H.: *to Mintern* "So. Wa's YOUR name?"
Mintern: "It's Ms. Mintern."
M.D.S.T.H.: "MINTERN! You know that's Irish!"
(Note: Mintern is not Irish.)

*Even Later*

M.D.S.T.H.: *To Mintern* "When are y'all goin' to start ILL'in' DVDs again? I went and got a new TV set up just so I could watch that new movie Lucy! I LOVE Scarlett Johansson! I jus' can't wait to see that new movie!"
(Note: The movie Lucy either just came to theaters or has not been released yet. It's going to be AT LEAST 18 months before we will be able to interlibrary loan it for him.)

This is just a snippet of our day, but you can see that this patron is indeed a high maintenance one. I am interested in hearing the stories from Mintern next week when I'm on vacation.

Until next time!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Yesterday while getting book drop, one of the United seargeants told me that the day before, she had stopped someone from putting dirty socks and hangers in the book drop. When she questioned the woman as to why she would do that, the reply was that her roommate had recently left and forgotten those items so she wanted to make sure they got to her.

Now, I pride myself on being able to get things places they should be from the book drop, but even my powers have limits haha.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, readers!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Things that make you go "Hmmm"

Greetings readers! It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian here with an interaction from yesterday's deliveries that just made me go "hmmmm."

Me: "I'm going to need you to turn that book in as well because it's overdue and on hold for someone else."

Patron: "No! That's not what the lady said last week!"

Me: "Mmm, I'm the only librarian and I don't remember saying that last week."

Patron: "Yes, you did!"

Me: "No, I didn't. Now may I please have the book?"

Patron: "Yeah, you were here last week and you had brown hair and were here with a man! You said I could keep it!"

(Note: there are no men that work in my library since Minion #1 switched facilities and I did have brown hair one time--about 4 years ago....)

It's amazing how time passes, or doesn't, in prison.

Until next time!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Prison Laugh o' the Day

Conversation with a clerk about stolen library books:

Clerk: "I'm surprised THAT one's still here!"
Me: "Yeah, it seems like if they go on hold right away and stay on hold they usually stick around."
Clerk: "I bet that Abbie Hoffman book is the most stolen book in the world!"
Me: "Which one is that?"
Clerk: "Steal this Book! If you had that book, you could totally live on the street back in the 60's."
Me: "Interesting,  What's it about?"
Clerk: "How to live on the street!"

Ah, they crack me up!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

In prison, it's best to trust your instincts

Hello readers, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope 2015 is an amazing year for all of you, filled with many good things and new or continued prison library jobs.

Today, I would like to talk about your gut instinct, and when you should listen to it in prison, which is always.

Case in point:  A couple days ago we were winding up an extremely cold snap and the snow was rumored to stop right around the time I was supposed to get the book drop.  I told the clerks "If the sun comes out and it stops snowing, we will get the book drop."  They said ok and went off to be counted.  12:30 rolled around and it was actually starting to get sunny, but a few snow flakes were falling.  I started walking to get the cart and head out when a little voice in my head said, "Don't get the book drop today."  Since I had a lot of things to catch up on after the holiday, I used the 30 minutes to work on interlibrary loans and thought nothing more of it.

Around 1:30 that afternoon, the Chaplain's clerk came in to ask if she could borrow the cart.  I told her ok, but not even 5 minutes later she rushed back into the library sans cart with a horrified look on her face.  "You are going to be so mad at me, I am so sorry!" she gushed.  "Uh, why?"  "I BLEW UP A TIRE ON YOUR CART I AM SO SORRYYYYY!!!"  So, one of the tires had blown as soon as she put the weight on the cart.  Luckily it happened to her in upper programs rather than us while we were out in below 0 temps with a heavy load of books.  LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS.

Until next time!